What effect does aging have on fertility and reproduction? This question has been driving the research of Universidad de Chile scientist Dr. Alfonso Paredes Vargas – and now his recent findings may be able to help aging women increase their success rates in fertility programs.
Dr. Paredes, professor at Universidad de Chile’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, is a leader in the study of reproductive aging. This area of biochemistry focuses on the mechanisms involved during the end of a woman’s reproductive period (menopause), when ovaries stop functioning.
For Dr. Paredes, this line of research is very relevant today, “Especially now that the Chilean population is aging, and because women today prefer personal and economic stability before motherhood,” he told Bárbara López Maturana, communications manager for the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals at the Universidad de Chile.
Earlier this year, Dr. Paredes and his team published a paper illustrating the effects of a substance called propranolol on the ovaries of rats. With propranolol, the rats were able to recover ovarian function during their reproductive aging period. This finding could be used in the future to increase the success rate of fertility programs in aging woman.
Regarding the potential impact of his new research, Dr. Paredes said that, “Understanding the participation of the nervous system and how it regulates ovarian function in the period of infertility is very important because, at present, women are postponing childbirth until after age 30, when fertility problems increase and the success rate in IVF (in vitro fertilization) programs decreases.”
Dr. Paredes broke down the specifics of his research and also explained that he was motivated to pursue this line of research when he first observed an interesting phenomena in his rat test subjects during his doctoral thesis.
“During the development of my doctoral thesis in biochemistry, I studied the mechanisms involved in the assembly and follicle development of rat ovaries. While comparing the time windows before follicle assembly and during the period of infertility, I noticed that both presented a higher rate of follicle loss in these stages.”
“The contents of follicles in the ovary determines the operation of this part of the body; if the follicle population decays, the ovary ceases to function (menopause). The size of the group of follicles is crucial for successful fertilization in women entering the period of infertility (over 32 years) and for IVF programs. It’s here that my interest was born in studying the mechanism by which this follicle loss is accelerated at the stage of infertility.”
While Dr. Paredes’s research is yet to go from the lab to the doctor’s office, the future looks bright for women seeking to have children later in life.